I first learned about L’Avant Comptoir Wine Bar from Anthony Bourdain’s Paris Layover episode. It’s a tapas style wine bar next door to Yves Camdeborde’s Le Comptoir St Germain bistro, which is impossible to get a reservation for unless you book a room at the hotel.
I arrived at 8:30pm, right at the height of Parisian dining time. Squeezing my way into the bar, it’s really just a long corridor with room for two rows of people standing. I somehow managed to find a spot at the bar and eventually got the bartender’s attention (there are two bartenders for the whole place). Standing off with a glass of red wine (bartender Eric’s selection) and what I consider a must-get: the boudin noir (blood sausage) macaron. I also wanted to order this double macaron of foie gras, but due to communication issues got a huge pate of foie gras (with citron jelly) instead. They serve natural wines here, which I have been very interested in trying as it’s a new trend in Paris and only available in France. Aged from 2013, this red was unlike any of the “standard” wines I’ve tasted before. Still a red wine but with some almost sparkling zest, it was a nice change from the handful of oft-repeated varietals we’re used to seeing everywhere.
There’s no elbow room and standing at the bar, the natural thing to do is to start a conversation with my neighbor, a Parisian local. The fliers with names and pictures of all menu items are hung from the ceiling, presenting a overwhelming selection of choices. There were so many things I wanted to order, but I settled on andouillette (sausage) with caviar and some kind of white foam. The caviar was only barely present as it was still mostly sausage. I finished with a goat cheese, but I preferred the Saint-Marcellin that my neighbor let me try a bite of. The boudin noir macaron was still my favorite.
No reservations taken at this place, so very convenient to go any time of night. No problems getting in as long as you’re okay being squeezed around. Prices are very affordable considering the quality of food you’re getting. A little tough if you don’t know French, but just pick some things and have a good time. High revisit value since there’s so many options, and there’s a few items of the day for added variety as well. The food does lean towards the heavier bistro side, focusing on meats, offals, cheese. These days I find myself preferring lighter fare, but this place definitely earns a spot in the annals of the Paris food scene, and I wish there were places like it in the U.S.
Edit: I actually came back Sunday afternoon for a quick snack, mostly because I had to get the warm foie gras with cherries. I only had whole seared foie gras once before and thought it was slimey and too rich. But turns out that was just bad preparation, because this dish was awesome. Really nice texture, seasoned so it’s rich but not overbearing. Cherries cut through the richness if necessary. Also got a poached egg in mushroom dish but it was kind of wine-y/sour so just okay. The red wine this time was not as enjoyable. I started asking for a medium bodied but it was not to my liking and I tried two more, asking for lighter and fruitier. In the end I just kind of gave up. Maybe my tongue was just not right at the moment. The wine did get better with the food pairings, but not as interesting and distinctive as the first red I got here. Eric wasn’t around this time… Oh and the butter is amazing (I didn’t get to try it last time).
This place still makes me feel kind of anxious due to how much is going on at once, even in the afternoon when it’s less crowded. But it’s some of the best food in Paris at really cheap prices. I prefer it as a snack or pre-dinner appetizer to a full meal, which is too heavy. Game plan once you’re here? I’ll make it easy for you: blood sausage macaron, warm foie gras, then hog the butter because it’s too good to share.